IceCube held its annual open house for the station population yesterday.
The larger science projects at the Pole will have open houses about once a year to give the rest of the station population an idea of just what they're up to. Most science buildings are off-limit to personnel who aren't directly involved in a related project. For instance, even though ARO is a short walk from the station and there aren't any locks on the doors, I would definitely be breaking protocol if I went there without the blessing and/or presence of someone associated with NOAA, the building's primary occupant.
Similarly, the IceCube Lab (hereafter ICL) and the IceCube Drill Camp are strictly off-limits to non-IceCube personnel. Our open house is an opportunity for people to come out in a sanctioned fashion and get a glimpse of what we do and why.
The ICL is a good walk from the station, roughly a mile. In the photo above, the ICL is the two vertical grey-ish bars slightly off-center to the left. The IceCube Drill Camp is the low-cluster of grey bars centered in the photo. The South Pole Telescope and BICEP are the buildings off-center to the right.
This photo was taken from just outside the station to give you an idea of how far away the building is. Most days, I make the walk to the ICL and back in about fifteen to twenty minutes each way. However, for the open house we had a shuttle van running that took people from the station, to the Drill Camp, the ICL, and then back to the station.
The photo above shows the ICL in greater detail. As you can see, it is an elevated two-story building with a pair of multi-story towers on either side. The snow ramp in front allows us to bring cargo up to the first floor with greater ease. The two towers are where the cables from the strings of instruments we place into the ice enter the building. The first floor is given over to work benches and lab space while the second floor houses the data center.
We had a good turn out for the open house. Last year, only seven or so people turned out to see what one of the largest science projects on station was about. This year we had twenty or so. Some people are interested in the science, some want to see the drill and the holes it makes, others just want to see whatever they can because it's different from their normal routine (different is a huge selling point for just about anything in Antarctica). In addition to station personnel, some skiers who were camping out near the Pole until their plane picks them up later today joined the group.
Out at the ICL I have a little office that I use. It isn't assigned to me but no one else ever seems too keen on sitting there so I call it mine. It is spartan, but it does include a desk with a phone and a window. The window is a bubble-style window that I can use to look out on the South Pole Telescpe or the Drill Camp. An example view from the window is below.